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EFFICIENCY OF CARBON NANOTUBES IN POLY COMPOSITES.<br /> (Reinforcing Efficiency of Carbon Nanotubes in Poly (vinyl alcohol) Composites)<br /> In this work, the reinforcing efficiency of carbon nanotubes in Poly (vinyl alcohol)<br />(PVA) composites has been studied. Homogeneous single-walled carbon nanotubes<br />(SWNT) / PVA nanocomposite films were first prepared by a solution-casting<br />method using DMSO as a solvent. The solution-cast films were drawn in the solid<br />state to create uniaxial nanocomposites where polymer chains and the SWNTs are<br />highly aligned. Mechanical properties studies show a remarkable increase in Young’s<br />modulus and tensile strength with the addition of SWNTs. For example, the addition<br />of only 1.0 wt.% of SWNTs led to an astonishing 200% increase in tensile strength.<br />Micromechanical analysis showed that the nanotube contribution to the composite<br />strength was as high as 88 GPa, which starts to exploit the extraordinary theoretical<br />strength of the CNTs. This high reinforcing efficiency suggests that in current<br />systems most of the prerequisites for obtaining highly efficient nanocomposites are<br />fulfilled, i.e. (i) a high level of dispersion, (ii) good interfacial interaction, and finally<br />(iii) a high level of alignment of the nanofillers. X-ray studies demonstrated that the<br />observed improvements in mechanical properties were true reinforcing effects of the<br />SWNTs and not the result of modification of the PVA matrix. We employed the<br />same method to prepare PVA nanocomposite tapes filled with different types of<br />carbon nanotubes. Mechanical tests suggested different reinforcing behaviour in<br />composite tapes. Crystallinity studies and X-ray studies confirmed that polymer<br />morphology had been changed by the addition of double-walled carbon nanotubes<br />and multi-walled carbon nanotubes. It was found that the reinforcing efficiency is<br />influenced by the structure of the tubes, modification of the polymer matrices<br />induced by nanotubes and the interaction between the polymer and the tubes.<br />Mechanical properties<br /> Since the discovery of carbon nanotubes, their seamless cylindrical graphitic<br />structure promises the superb mechanical properties and implies that nanotubes<br />might be the ultimate fibres for strong, lightweight composite materials. To carry out<br />mechanical characterization of polymer nanocomposites and study the reinforcing<br />mechanism on a nano-scale, the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes are<br />crucial in this work. The most important modelling and experiments related to<br />mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes will be reviewed in the following<br />paragraphs. Extensive theoretical predictions had been carried out in many groups, extraordinarymechanical performance from theoretical calculation showed that carbon nanotubes possess tensile modulus and strength as high as 1 TPa and 200 GPa respectively<br />[21-24]. Early report from Ruoff and Lorents et al.  considered the case of<br />defect-free nanotubes, both single-walled and multi-walled. By using the elastic<br />moduli of graphite , which is 1060 GPa, the tensile stiffness for a SWNT with a<br />wall thickness and diameter of 0.34 and 1 nm was calculated. The tensile strength of<br />nanotubes was estimated by scaling the 20 GPa tensile strength of well-known<br />Bacon’s graphite whiskers in the 1960s . It is important to note that the Young’s<br />modulus is directly related to the cohesion of the solid and therefore to the chemical<br />bonding of the constituent atoms . As for carbon nanotubes, the Young’s modulus<br />is related to the sp2 carbon-carbon bond strength and should equal to that of a<br />graphite sheet if the diameter is not too small to distort the C - C bonds significantly.<br />Besides extensive theoretical modelling, experimental studies have also been carried<br />out by many groups. Early research focused mainly on multi-walled nanotubes.<br />Treacy et al.  first estimated the Young's modulus of isolated arc discharged<br />multi-walled nanotubes by measuring, in the transmission electron microscope<br />(TEM), the amplitude of their intrinsic thermal vibrations. The modulus calculated<br />ranged from 0.41 - 4.15 TPa with an average of 1.8 ± 0.9 TPa for a number of<br />nanotubes. However, the first direct measurement of arc - MWNTs was reported by<br />Wong et al. in 1997 using atomic-force microscope (AFM) . Individual and<br />structurally isolated MWNTs were deposited on molybdenum disulfide (MoS2)<br />substrate, and pinned by deposition of a grid of square SiO pads as shown in Figure<br />2.8. The bending force was measured versus displacement along the unpinned<br />lengths. The elastic modulus determined was 1.28 ± 0.59 TPa and the average<br />bending strength measured was 14.2 ± 8.0 GPa. Salvetat et al.  also use AFM to measure the elastic modulus of isolated MWNTs. Instead of applying a lateral force to tubes like Wong , they clamped the nanotubes to a ultrafiltration membrane and measured vertical deflection versus the force applied at the point midway along the length. In other words, nanotubes were treated as a beam that is clamped at each end and to measure elastic modulus. Three types of MWNTs were measured, 810 (+410 / -160) GPa of elastic modulus was measured for arc-MWNTs, while catalytic MWNTs ranged only from 10 to 50 GPa.<br />Figure 2.8: Overview of the approach used to probe mechanical properties of carbon<br />nanotubes. (a) carbon nanotubes deposited on the substrate and pinned by square SiO<br />pads; (b) Schematic of beam bending with an AFM tip and lateral force changes <br /> In 2000, Yu et al.  carried out the first tensile-loading experiment inside a<br />scanning electron microscope (SEM) on individual MWNTs. The MWNTs broke in<br />the outermost layer (sword-in-sheath failure), and the tensile strength of this layer<br />ranged from 11 to 63 GPa. Analysis from stress-strain curves showed that the<br />Young’s modulus (E) of the tubes ranged from 270 to 950 GPa. Figure 2.9 shows the<br />SEM image of the tensile test. An individual MWNT was mounted between two<br />opposing AFM tips with the lower soft cantilever used to determine the applied force and the top rigid AFM tip to apply tensile load to the MWNT. The MWNT section is<br />covered by a square-shaped carbonaceous deposit.<br />Figure 2.9: SEM image of the tensile test on an individual MWNT <br />The measurement of SWNTs proved to be more challenging, since they tend to form<br />bundles because of strong Van der Waal forces. It is almost impossible to measure<br />individual single-walled tube as previously performed on MWNTs. Krishnan et al.<br /> applied the technique of Treacy et al.  to measure Young’s modulus of<br />isolated SWNTs. An average of 1.25 (-0.35 / +0.45) TPa modulus was found.<br />However, the first measurements were carried out by Salvetat et al.  using AFM<br />on arc-discharged SWNTs ropes. They determined both the elastic and the shear<br />moduli for SWNT ropes, and an elastic modulus of about 1 TPa was calculated for<br />small diameter and long ropes. However, low intertube shear stiffness dominated the<br />flexural behaviour of the SWNTs ropes. Shear modulus decreases with the increase of the diameter of the ropes, which shows nanotube slip within the bundle. Walters et<br />al.  studied the elastic strain of pulsed laser vaporization grown SWNTs bundles<br />using AFM. By assuming the elastic modulus to be 1.25 TPa, the result of maximum<br />strain 5.8 ± 0.9 % indicated a yield strength of 45 ± 7GPa. Yu et al.  performed<br />similar measurements on SWNTs ropes as well as MWNTs with moduli ranging<br />from 0.32 to 1.47 TPa and strength between 13 to 52 GPa were observed.<br /> It is worth to note that the real advantage of CNT over other fibres such as carbon<br />fibre is in tensile strength. In fact, the stiffest high modulus commercial carbon fibre<br />Torayca M65J from Toray Industries (Japan) has a modulus of around 650 GPa<br />compared to 971 GPa for SWNTs, while their strongest carbon fibre, T1000, has an<br />ultimate tensile strength (UTS) of nearly 7 GPa. Clearly, when only the external wall<br />of MWNTs carries the load, the effective strength of MWNTs is still twice the value<br />of the strongest carbon fibre. As for SWNTs, their strength is nearly 20 times higher<br />than that of the strongest carbon fibre. Because of their significant mechanical<br />properties, SWNTs should be considered as ideal reinforcing filler for polymer<br />nanocomposites.<br />